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Challenges and opportunities for executive recruitment in the pharma sector

The pharmaceutical industry is about to experience a golden age. Technological and scientific developments are bringing about revolutionary new treatments, while demand is at an all-time high.

However the pharma sector is under pressure from a number of external factors. Demographic changes and the disruptive impact of technology mean that established workflows and business structures are coming under increasing strain.

Despite these pressures, many businesses have not yet made significant changes to their recruitment or overall business strategy. The changing nature of the marketplace provides pharmaceutical businesses with considerable opportunities. Effective executive recruitment can help the pharma industry to capitalise on these opportunities and effectively navigate the challenges ahead.

The changing business context of the pharmaceutical sector

The pharmaceutical industry has been a cornerstone in building modern society. Through developments in medicine, we are able to live longer, healthier, more productive lives. However, while the pharma sector has been a driver of change, it has been slow to respond to change itself. A number of external factors are changing the context in which the sector operates and have a significant impact on the industry:

  • changing demographics
  • shifts in buyer and prescriber policy
  • rising patient expectations
  • poor productivity within the sector
  • the impact of technology and the personalisation of treatment.

By understanding the impact of these pressures on the industry, you can modify your executive recruitment strategy to address the issues they present.

Changing demographics

The positive impact of the pharma industry is proving to be one of its biggest challenges. As health and life expectancy have improved, the nature of disease and the requirements for new pharmaceuticals have changed considerably. Advances in medicine have meant that many conditions that were previously fatal or life limiting can now be effectively managed. As a result the biggest healthcare issues in many developed countries are now related to age and obesity. Prevention and management of these chronic healthcare issues are now a significant focus.

Shifts in buyer and prescriber policy

With the shift in demographics, the cost of healthcare is rising considerably. This has resulted in a change in procurement policy, with much greater scrutiny. Buyers require much more detailed healthcare economics and outcomes research in order to sign off on treatments. Demonstrating value is now a key step on the road to market, requiring a significant shift in the marketing and sales approach.

Rising patient expectations

As the market has matured and more diseases are now managed and controlled, patient expectations increase. Today's patient wants both curative and palliative medicines for diseases and conditions that may once have been endured. Increased access to diagnoses through the internet and drug recommendations makes this an increasingly competitive market.

Poor productivity

The low hanging fruit of new molecules has long since been exhausted and the costs of bringing new drugs to market has increased considerably. The traditional roadmap of extended R&D can often fall at the final hurdle as the lack of clear outcomes evidence fails to justify the high costs. Major restructuring has already been seen across big pharma and a further shift of approach may be required to ensure continued profitability.

The impact of technology and personalisation of treatment

Technological advances have a massive impact on the development and delivery of drugs and healthcare services. New understanding of the relationship between genetics and disease is also changing the face of medicine. Personalisation and customisation of drugs are increasingly common. This challenges the mass production model that the sector has built itself on. Responding to these shifts requires an adaptability and pragmatism that has not traditionally been a trait of the sector.

Taking advantage of the opportunities that change presents

As the sector undergoes a seismic shift, businesses that are able to anticipate and affect change will win out. Effective executive recruitment can introduce new skills, different perspectives and strong leadership. These attributes will support pharma businesses through changing times.

Ensuring continued profitability in a difficult marketplace will be key to success across the pharma industry. This involves maximising the return from existing IP, as well as identifying new ways of working to reduce the costs of developing new molecules. Breaking businesses into a number of smaller units with a more entrepreneurial spirit and the diversification of portfolios are approaches that are becoming more widespread.

The key skills for leaders in the pharma sector

With a change in focus comes the need for different skills. Candidates for C-suite and other executive roles in the pharma industry will need a range of traits to help lead businesses into the future of pharmaceuticals.

Creativity, flexibility and pragmatism will be key to identifying innovative approaches and changing the ingrained culture of the business. The impact of new technology and scientific progress can be unpredictable. This makes the ability to respond to change and dealing with shifting goalposts an essential attribute.

Diverse perspectives can bring new insight to the industry's problems. Recruiting employees with a range of backgrounds, genders and ethnicities will help businesses to find innovative approaches to the challenges facing the sector.

Collaborative approaches that break down the traditional silos within businesses will also help to identify new opportunities. Working across departments, teams and locations can help to reduce costs, foster a stronger company spirit and increase innovation.

A rational mind and the confidence to make changes are crucial to making the structural changes needed to survive. Whether it's sales, acquisitions or difficult staffing decisions, keeping focused on delivering the goals of the business and winning the backing of the board are essential.

A forward looking attitude will help businesses to make a break with the past and challenge the traditional structures and processes that are holding the sector back.

Finally, being tech savvy and appreciating the opportunities and challenges that disruptive technology create will be crucial to leading pharma businesses into the future.

How to recruit the future leaders of the pharma sector

Recruiting to key roles within the pharmaceutical industry has always presented a challenge. But in the context of a changing industry and an unclear future, the task has become even more difficult.

Working with a professional executive search consultant can not only make the process easier, it can also reduce the risk to your business. By working closely with our clients we develop a sound understanding of their needs, both explicit and implicit. Our holistic and detailed approach with candidates also ensures that we find the right interviewees rather than simply filling empty seats.

To discuss how we can support your business with pharmaceutical executive search, please get in touch today